The role of power in the political thought of Marsilius of Padua

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The question of power occupied an even more central role in Marsilius' political thought than previously thought. Behind the appearances of consent in his thought lay, at a deeper level, the idea of power. The core concept of coercive power was located within the field of meaning of plenitudo potestatis through which Marsilius' new theory of the nature of power was strained and projected onto the papacy. But the modern debate about whether Marsilius was a legal positivist has been wrongly posed. His stress on the necessity of a clear power structure had a biological basis. Comparison with jurists reveals the strengths and weaknesses of his treatment of power.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of History and Welsh History, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales LL57 2DG.

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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